Education, efficiency, innovation and customer service define the experience within the service department at Woodard Marine, a small-town dealership in western Vermont.
Owner Lauren Woodard-Splatt has focused much of her attention on its service department, encouraging constant tech training, tweaking its pricing structure, implementing green initiatives, adding a new bonus program and bringing tech seminars to the boat shows it attends.
She added that the dealership’s seven-person service department is its pride and joy, and the entire team has worked diligently making a constant stream of improvements to ensure the operation “runs like a Swiss clock.”
“Our technicians are all certified in the engine brands that we carry, and we feel our service department is the best in the Northeast,” Woodard-Splatt said.
During the past year, Woodard implemented major initiatives within the department that have earned it this year’s Best Service Department title. Even though it already had the highest labor rate in the surrounding Lake George district, the company felt its level of service justified the rate and raised it an additional 6 percent in 2012.
A new drive-through filtration system cleans toxins from boats using filters to remove the chemicals and store them in a holding tank so they don’t drain into the water table.
One of the company’s mantras is improving the business without spending money. With that in mind, Woodard Marine started a “Talk to the Techs” booth at boat shows, with a mini classroom with seating, TV presentations, an engine cutaway, damaged maintenance components compared with new parts and on-site service staff hosting seminars during the show.
Techs provided basic maintenance tips and demonstrations on topics like ethanol and picking the right propeller, and booked appointments with a show discount. Aside from educating attendees, the initiative drove additional service business and reinforced the department’s hands-on customer service with new and potential clients.
Training is a major focus at the dealership. While the dealership is currently not certified through the Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program, it achieved 5-star certification from 2005 through 2011. All technicians are annually certified through the Mercury’s factory-lead Mercury University, the Honda Marine training center and the Yamaha Technical Academy. The company received recognition from Honda for the organization and efficiency of its service operation, and Woodard is currently seeking Clean Marine certification.
The service department’s flat-rate pricing, another change for 2012, is intended to take away the fear of unexpected charges for customers, and the move has also increased profits. In addition, Woodard budgets $5,000 every year to provide free minor repairs to customers already having major work completed. In the scheme of things, it’s a small amount of money, but its use has increased repeat business and word of mouth — critical in a rural area.
To incentivize its tech staff, its bonus program provides financial incentives to achieve and maintain all certifications on a yearly basis. Baseline techs receive 20 percent of the shop rate, while those fully certified receive 25 percent of the shop rate.
All of these efforts have borne fruit in incredible service metrics. By its own measure, there were only eight service returns throughout the last year — out of a total of 3,102 repair orders billed to customers. That equates to a quality rate of 99.7 percent. To maintain that level of quality, tech hours used to fix returns do not count toward billable hours or the bonus program.
Woodard’s average technician efficiency, tracked weekly, monthly and annually, is an incredible 111 percent. That’s partially due to its newly implemented paperless scheduling and dispatching system that’s built into ADP Lightspeed. ADP’s paperless system includes a dispatching system that assigns and schedules the jobs, and automatically emails the boat owner with a service survey that is eventually stored in the customer’s file.
Its average CSI scores for sales and service of all its manufacturers is 99.17 percent, with flawless 100-percent ratings from Bayliner, Mercury, Honda, Yamaha and Godfrey.
All told, Woodard Marine estimates it has an 80 percent success rate converting service customers into new-unit buyers. And that may be its most important metric of all.